ODOT and ODF are using ‘Fire & Ice’ program to recruit staff

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – As winter nears a pair of state agencies are forming a unique alliance to fix a local problem. The Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Department of Transportation are hoping to retain state workers by giving them work with both organizations.

The program is called Fire and Ice. It’s been around for years but the state agencies are now trying to make it better than ever.

Oregon’s Fire and Ice program dates back to the 1980s. It’s a program that allows seasonal employees from both departments to transfer to the other during their off-season.

“It’s a challenge when most of your workforce is seasonal and you want to provide that opportunity for year-around work. One, just for them. And two, so that they stay and you have that retention and relationship,” said Natalie Weber from ODF Southwest District.

ODF said nine of its Southern Oregon firefighters are transitioning to ODOT as part of its winter road maintenance crews now. Something that’ll help with this year’s hiring struggles.

“Yeah, we are experiencing staffing shortages this winter,” said Matt Noble, from ODOT.

Noble said the level of service may go down due to hiring struggles. But the agency said the drop isn’t concerning.

“We’ve seen this coming. This isn’t a shock to us so we’ve definitely been planning for several months now for this eventually,” said Noble.

With the Fire and Ice program in place, it helps both agencies as they are staffing up for their busy seasons.

“It’s just a great opportunity for both of our agencies to be able to employ people, for our employees to have that year around work in a typically seasonal workforce,” said Weber.

ODF told NBC5 News that they’ve seen many of their employees take part in this program. Many are new this year and are excited to try it out.

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